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Ethiopia / ICASA: GCWA Activities at ICASA 2012!

06 Dec, 2011
The Global Coalition on Women and AIDS (GCWA), in partnership with the National Network of Positive Women Ethiopians, ATHENA Network and Southern African AIDS Trust, has convened a Women’s Networking Zone (WNZ) at the biannual ICASA Conference for the first time. The WNZ@ICASA2011 at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, builds on a decade of women’s parallel organising at International AIDS Conferences, from Durban 2000 to the present day. Most recently, the GCWA has supported Women’s Networking Zones at AIDS 2010 in Vienna, and at the International AIDS Society HIV Pathogenesis, Prevention and Treatment Conference in Rome, in July 2011, and in doing so has created a strong roadmap for women’s networking and advocacy, bridging from Vienna to Washington DC, where AIDS2012 will take place.
The Young Women’s Leadership Initiative, launched by the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS through the WNZ at Rome 2011 marked an unprecedented opportunity for critical dialogue and engagement by young women – including young women living with and affected by HIV – in a traditionally science-focused conference space. The WNZ@ICASA2011 builds on the success of the launch of the Leadership Initiative to bring nine emerging young women leaders to Addis Ababa from across the African continent.
Thirty years into the HIV and AIDS pandemic, young women still struggle to find spaces in which to give voice to their issues, and continue to be marginalised and excluded from decision making, policies and programmes that affect their lives, despite global recognition of the disproportionate impact of HIV on them. The WNZ aims to provide a space for women in all of our diversity – including young women and women living with HIV – to platform key issues affecting women and girls in the context of HIV and to showcase our leadership in response to these challenges. At the opening yesterday, one of the young women leaders shared her excitement at being at ICASA, predicting that for her “these will be the best days of the year.”
Dr Sheila Tlou, the former Minister of Health of Botswana, and current Director of UNAIDS Regional Support Team for East and Southern Africa opened the Zone with an invigorating address in which she praised the Young Women’s Leadership Initiative, and underscored GCWA’s and UNAIDS’ commitment to investment in young women’s leadership. Dr Tlou said that young women are no longer the leaders of tomorrow, but that they are here, now. Young women are the leaders of today, and the key to ending the HIV epidemic.
As she announced the official opening of the WNZ@ICASA2011, Dr Tlou was cheered with loud ululations and passionate chanting of “Viva! – Viva!” “Amandla! (Power!) – Awethu! (It is ours!)” by young women claiming their place among women leaders from the positive women’s movement, lesbian and gay rights activists, and high level leaders from across the continent.